Read Them Before They’re Mainstream
Three writers of the fantastic you need to pay attention to now.
Mary Gentle is not so gentle. She does Medieval combat on top of writing kick-ass fantasy. I started on her magnum opus and chief gateway drug, Ash: A Secret History, and what a ride it was. I won’t give too much away because part of the fun of Ash is that you don’t know what you’re getting into. It starts out as a historical fiction about Ash the Burgundian mercenary captain. The story is framed by a historian unearthing documents about Ash, who has been mysteriously erased from history, probably because she’s a woman. Let’s just say that it doesn’t stay historical fiction. Gentle likes to explore gender roles and sexuality in her works, with humour, pounding action, sarcasm, and sardonicism. Her long-awaited Black Opera should be out next year, and it will be worth it.
N. K. Jemisin is making waves on the blogsphere. Usually when the best authors of epic fantasy get trotted out it’s Jordan/Tolkien/Martin/Erikson/Rufus/Abercrombie, yawn, the usual parade. If you’re lucky someone will mention Robin Hobb. I hope that soon Jemisin will dominate the discussion. Her Inheritance Trilogy is a high magic world with gods running around, and it works. Not many authors can juggle so many plates without one of them falling. I’ve devoured The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and I’m now into the sequel, The Broken Kingdoms. She does something unusual for fantasy between these two instalments: complete protagonist change. Jemisin proves that in order to be full and rich, epic fantasy doesn’t need 10^3 characters, endless subplots and hundreds of pages of nothing happening on White Planet. She’s fresh, she’s awsome, she writes fast. She’s finished a trilogy in two years, and next year has a duet coming out. I only with she had a map to her world.
Caroline M. Yoachim is the new kid on the block. I’ve only read one short story by her so far, “Stone Wall Truth” in Asimov’s. It made me sit up and pay attention big time. She had a world that was strange, fantastic, made-up, grotesque and got it established quickly. Most authors who write secondary-world fantasy short stories leech off of their novels for support and the story doesn’t make sense on its own. Not so with Yoachim who needed no such crutch. It haunted me for a long time afterwards. When her first novel does come out, I’ll be the first in line to snatch up the hardcover. Or maybe she’ll have an anthology and stick to short stories.
Sardonic Ash: Einstein warps space-time with his matter. I warp space-time with my brain.
Sardonic Ash: Joan of Arc had God. I’ve got a tactical computer.
Introducing Sardonic Ash. Where’s your Burgundy now bitch?